For Luke, on his birthday

One of my brothers and his family were in town unexpectedly over the weekend. All of my kids (and grandbaby!) were here, along with those adopted in from across the country and those attached to them. One of my sister-in-laws was also here with my niece and nephew, so it seemed like a good time to get everyone together for homemade ice cream.

We totaled twenty some. Sprawled across furniture throughout the tiny living room. I meant to let the overflow spill out onto the front lawn, but we were loosely cohered together and couldn’t be drawn down another floor and out the door.

As I watched clusters of cousins and aunts and uncles and in-laws, I caught snatches of various engaging conversations. I noticed my brother Keith’s hands as he reached out to grab Heather’s. He has Dad’s hands, I realized. I’d forgotten how big and strong Dad’s hands were. They are work hands. Helping hands. Saving hands.


I was just a kid. No one was near. My parents were on the beach and my siblings scattered along the shallow shoreline. It was still shallow enough where I was. Surf crashed gently against my waist as I walked away from the shore, out towards infinite blue. I must have hit a hole, as before I knew it was head over heels under, chest clamoring for oxygen, saltwater stinging my eyes, having lost all sense of direction and how to right myself. “This must be what it feels like to drown.”

Out of seemingly nowhere–I am certain no one was near me when I fell–a strong hand yanked me out of the water just as I reflexively gasped for breath. Dad righted me and steadied me on nearer, firmer ground.


Today a text from Jon. Ever since I got word of the divorce I’ve felt compelled to go see him. To wrap my arms around him in a big hug. To do something, anything, to help. This weekend I finally have a chance to drive to Idaho to lend him a hand as he settles into his small, 60-year-old ranch house.

“Just your luck to have the vet schedule to come over Friday to vaccinate the little ones and castrate the two bull calves.”

“That will bring back memories,” I replied.


I was a gangly teenager. For whatever reason my brothers were unavailable that particular day. So Dad came looking for me when he finally decided it was time to castrate the overgrown Angus bull calves. Though still calves, they were heavy, powerful, and not inclined to be messed with. The first procedure seemed to go off without a hitch. Dad pinned it down and moved over as I replaced him, kneeling over the calf to hold it in place while Dad wielded snippers. It was more difficult than it looked, and by the time we got to the second calf, my quad muscles were burning. The second proved more complicated and by the time Dad was finished the now steer was angry and my legs were numb. I couldn’t move. I willed myself to get up and get out of the way of the kicking hooves, but nothing happened.

Once again, a pair of strong hands reach down and I found myself yanked out of harm’s way.